EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 6, 2008

Ageless Allen

33-year-old Celtics guard still going strong

On Pro Basketball

BOSTON — Ray Allen doesn't get down on all fours before games like Kevin Garnett. He doesn't scream at the crowd like Paul Pierce. He doesn't do histrionics. That's just not his thing.

Instead he settles for simple fist pumps. They're quick, smooth and effective; kind of like Allen.

He scored 19 points (7 of 16 shooting) to lead the Celtics over the Portland Trail Blazers, 93-78, last night at TD Banknorth Garden.

"Ray, he just plays," Blazers guard Brandon Roy said. "He doesn't do a lot of talking. He just plays his game, takes his shots. He's a professional. It's no secret."

The 6-foot-5 guard is in the midst of perhaps his best stretch of basketball in a Boston uniform. He's averaging 22.1 points over his last seven games, all victories. The Celtics have won 11 straight overall.

Whether he was draining a 3-pointer from the wing to tie the score at 19 late in the first quarter (that was the only time he pulled out the fist pump) or rushing up the floor to score the first points of the second half on an uncontested layup, the 13-year veteran looked like the Allen of old.

"He did a good job of leaking out, getting behind the defense," said Roy, who Allen helped hold to 12 points, 9.1 below his average. "He just played a good game. Ray's a good player. I've always watched Ray Allen."

It's as if the 33-year-old Allen wound back the odometer on his surgically repaired ankles. He is averaging 35.5 minutes a night, which may affect him down the stretch, but he seems fresh on the court.

At 19-2, the Celtics need one more win to match last year's sensational start. When asked if this is the best Boston has played since he's been here, Allen paused for a moment, and delivered a typically measured response. He's not about to make emotional proclamations.

"I'm definitely not counting or taking a survey," said the second-year Celtic. "I just know that we want to continue to get better. Find(ing) ways to get each individual player better makes the team better."

Defense again propelled the Celtics, who went on a 21-0 run spanning the second and third quarters. That opened up a 56-36 Boston lead 2:30 into the second half and essentially put the game out of reach.

"We can get five stops in a row and (if) on the sixth possession they score a bucket, we'll all be disappointed because it's something we knew we could've taken away," Allen said. "We're trying to build each possession. You don't have to give up anything if you don't have to."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers complimented Allen's defense on Roy. The 6-6 Roy, one of the league's top young guards, burned Allen for a baseline dunk in the first quarter, but was kept in check for most of the evening.

"I thought Paul (Pierce) did a pretty good job in the one stretch denying him. Ray got up into him," Rivers said. "(Roy's) not a good player; he's a great player."

Roy called Allen a "better team defender" than people give him credit for.

"At this level, it's hard to be a great individual defender, especially when you're such a good scorer like Ray," Roy said. "But I think he does a great job defensively."

Commitment to defense wasn't the only thing that took getting used to in Boston. Joining a three-star constellation was hard on Allen, who on his former teams was usually the first scoring option.

"I think Ray over everyone, it was the biggest change for him," Rivers said of the New Big 3 (Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce). "You watch his games in Seattle. He had the ball for 21 seconds. He dribbled it around, he did what he wanted. Then he came here and (Rajon) Rondo had the ball and he threw it to Ray when he needed him to shoot. That's totally different. And he didn't get the ball as much."

Allen averaged 17.4 points per game last season, his lowest output since averaging 17.1 in 1998-99, his third year in the league. Still, he grew as a player. He shook off three difficult playoff series to come up huge in the NBA finals, when he averaged 20.3 points per game. In Boston's dramatic comeback win over the Lakers in Game 4, he played all 48 minutes and scored 19 points.

"The average player would've melted," Rivers said.

Not much has changed since he lit up L.A.

"He's in the same place really," Rivers said.

Last night's performance confirmed that assessment. With 2:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, Eddie House entered the game for a straight-faced Allen. There was no wild celebration from him — not even a fist pump — just a high five for every teammate on the bench.

Alan Siegel is a sportswriter at The Eagle-Tribune. E-mail him at ASiegel@eagletribune.com.

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